Airbus Planning A321XLR Test Flights For 2022

The Airbus A321XLR is perhaps the most hotly anticipated variant of the planemaker’s next generation A320neo family. The aircraft epitomizes a growing trend towards longer-haul flights with single-aisle aircraft, and it is set to unlock a variety of ‘long thin’ routes. The A321XLR is yet to take to the skies, but that should change next year when it begins testing.

The A321XLR’s projected entry for 2023. Image: Airbus

Test flights next year

2021 has proved to be a year of rebuilding, as airlines and manufacturers look to recover from the worst of the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. However, it seems that brighter days lay ahead next year, particularly for European manufacturing juggernaut Airbus. Indeed, the multinational planemaker is set to operate A321XLR test flights in 2022.

According to Corporate Travel Community, Airbus confirmed this target last year. More recently, in June 2021, Aviation Week Network reported that Airbus’s Executive Vice President of Programs and Services, Philippe Mhun, stated that Airbus doesn’t just have Digital Mock-Ups (DMUs) of the next generation narrowbody, but also:

Parts that we start to pre-assemble, and that will lead to flight tests in 2022, and to an entry into service of the aircraft in 2023.”

The A321XLR will be a gamechanger on secondary long-haul routes with lower demand. Image: Airbus

Test aircraft being assembled

Airbus has recently taken a significant step towards achieving its target of A321XLR test flights in 2022 by beginning construction of the type’s first example. The planemaker announced this in May 2021, with the aircraft being pieced together in Hamburg. It was able to begin after the arrival of the plane’s Rear Center Tank. Airbus’s Martin Schnoor stated:

We are on track with our planning. The pilot line dedicated to the A321XLR is ready and waiting to operate the assembly phases for the first flight test aircraft, all the way through to the entry into service.”

A more recent update last month confirmed that Airbus was continuing with the production of this aircraft as planned. This progress is a promising sign for the European manufacturer ahead of its planned production increases towards the middle of the decade.

Airbus’s first A321XLR test aircraft is taking shape in Germany. Photo: Airbus

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Entry into service a year later

Despite the various challenges that the coronavirus pandemic has posed to the aviation industry, Airbus has remained committed to a 2023 launch date for the A321XLR. The company confirmed that it was still on track for this target in April 2020, towards the start of the global health crisis. More than a year later, it remains on course to achieve this.

Lebanese operator Middle East Airlines (MEA) is set to be the launch customer for the aircraft, having been the first carrier to order it back in 2019 at the Paris Air Show. Meanwhile, American Airlines will be the first US carrier to introduce the type, also in 2023. It is set to be followed by Frontier in 2024, along with fellow legacy carrier United in 2025.

Are you looking forward to seeing the A321XLR reach flight testing? Have you flown on any other long-haul narrowbody flights? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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